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When 10-year-old Katie isn’t in school, she is likely swimming laps at the pool trying to improve her stroke and speed, but it was a discovery made one day at the pool in the fall of 2013 that changed Katie’s life forever.

During routine stretching exercises in practice, Katie’s swim coach noticed her back had a curvature that resembled an s-shape. Katie’s family immediately visited their pediatrician and was stunned to hear the diagnosis of scoliosis.

Katie’s mother, Mary Beth, promptly began researching treatment options and quickly felt the weight of the diagnosis of her child. She reached out for advice and encouragement from another mother of a teenager on Katie’s swim team who had also been diagnosed with scoliosis. As a result of their conversation, Mary Beth resolved to bring Katie to Shriners Hospitals for Children — Greenville located four hours from their home. “We wanted Katie in the care of doctors who not only treat children, but also treat scoliosis all day, every day,” Mary Beth said.

Katie came for her first appointment at the Greenville Shriners Hospital a week after the discovery of scoliosis. Katie has an s-curve with a 20-degree curve at the top and a 26-degree curve on the bottom. The first appointment can be an emotional time for the family dealing with a new diagnosis. Katie and her family experienced a rollercoaster of emotions, including anxiety at the idea of Katie wearing an orthotic or brace to correct scoliosis and prevent the curvature from worsening while adjusting to everyday activities.

Mary Beth vividly remembers, “She had a hard time walking with it and as we walked through the lobby together to get an X-ray, she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, ‘I can’t do this mom.’” With the help and encouragement of the Pediatric Orthotic and Prosthetic Services – Southeast, LLC, staff, Katie’s outlook quickly changed. “I think the encouraging attitude of everyone there has set the tone for Katie’s attitude,” Mary Beth said.

Katie’s first appointment also included popcorn and snacks, a favorite movie, a game of air hockey and a visit from Santa Clause. “I think the overall atmosphere of the hospital made a huge difference right from the get go,” says Mary Beth. “The Greenville Shriners Hospital is not intimidating. It doesn’t feel like a hospital and for children who don’t know what’s going on to begin with, to enter a place and find it warm and welcoming, not to mention fun, is awesome.” After the visit Katie said, “This was my best day all year.”

Mary Beth says there is very little Katie cannot do with the brace on. She likes to play sports and has fun running and jumping while hanging out with friends. She says most times you can’t even tell she is wearing a brace.

Katie’s once 26 and 20-degree s-shaped curves are now 10 and 6 degrees thanks to the care she has received at Shriners Hospitals for Children. She will continue to be monitored by physicians, to make sure the brace continues to hold, using the EOS machine, which produces a 3-D full-body image and puts out 90 percent less radiation than a typical X-ray.

“The doctors and staff at Shriners [Hospital] are there because they love children and are passionate about finding ways to help them,” Katie says. “They all have a wonderful and kind way of dealing with both the patients and the families. I want to show other kids that a brace doesn’t have to stop them. They can still have fun while wearing their brace.”

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